BIG PLANS AHEAD

Spain 2020 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Valenciaport has built on the success of its fantastic location to become the top port in the Mediterranean and the fifth in Europe.

Aurelio Martínez Estévez
BIOGRAPHY

Aurelio Martínez Estévez holds a PhD in economics and business sciences from the University of Valencia and is a professor of applied economics. He was previously president of the Official Credit Institute, State Lotteries and Navantia. He has held various positions in the administration, including national, regional, and local. He has also been president of the Valencian Institute of Finance and Minister of Economy and Finance of the Generalitat Valenciana. He has published and collaborated on 30 books and more than 50 articles of a technical-economic nature.

Can you present an introduction of Valenciaport and its main services?
Right now, container traffic represents 76% of the total cargo we move. We are the top port in Spain in the Mediterranean and the fifth in Europe. It is a port mostly for cargo and freight. We specialize in moving freight to the Middle East, China, and the US, and we handle 37% of all the imports and exports for Spain. We control three ports: one in Valencia, another in Sagunto, and a third in Gandia. Thus far, in 2019 we are growing at a rate of 12%, which we had not forecasted. This growth has made us realize we have to accelerate our expansion in the north. The north expansion, as we call it, is a EUR1.2-billion project; nearly a third of this is financed by the port, while the remainder is through private investments. We expect to move 5 million containers more, and as a result, we would be able to move up to 12-13 million containers. This is an ambitious but necessary project. This will be a semi-automatized infrastructure, and I imagine the rest of the terminals in the port will take the same path. The future of the port is heading toward semi-automation, which will boost our productivity levels.

What has allowed Valenciaport to hold this position in the market?
We have been extremely entrepreneurial and have a great geographical location. Valencia is well located because it is the closest port to Madrid; we move 60% of Madrid's imports. However, additionally, there is a great deal of cargo traffic between China and the north of Europe, and vessels make several stops during their long trips. The advantage Valencia has is that it is the largest and closest port to the flow of traffic between Suez and Gibraltar. We have the best location, and, moreover, we generate cargo or the vessels, because we represent near 39% of all the exports and imports from Spain.
Who are your main competitors in the Mediterranean?
In transshipment, the port that is growing the fastest is Piraeus, though Greece does not generate much import and export cargo because its volume of traffic is smaller. Marseille, another well-known port, is far away. Our main competitors are Barcelona, Tangier, and Algeciras.

What measures are included in the strategic plan for 2020?
We have to think what ports will be like in the next 20 years. It is extremely difficult to do that, because it is difficult to know what will happen in the future. However, these investments are extremely expensive, and we need to plan ahead, which is a huge challenge. We are in a globalized world, and we analyze developments in the market and in other ports.

What transformations do you seek to achieve by investing in R&D?
The cost of not being up to date in terms of innovation is so high that it can mean one can lose competitiveness. We have an innovation plan with several programs for the coming years. Some years ago, there were no Spanish ports among the most innovative, and we took certain steps to improve in this area. We have many areas in which we can become more innovative, like in waste management, CO2 reduction, or our production processes. Our efforts are focused on paying attention on the developments in other ports and how we can bring them here. This is a business line that can help us obtain more competitiveness.

What are your goals in the short term?
I would like to award a contract to a private company to do the north expansion. Then, I would like to have all the railway projects launched and, more specifically, get the wind power plan authorized.